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The Oddity of Theodicy
March 20, 2022 at 11 a.m. | Bulletin
“The gardener replied, ‘My friend, let that barren fig tree alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:9
Jesus is on the road again, heading to Jerusalem and his destiny. But people come up to him with news of bad things happening: Pilate killing worshippers in the temple, a tower falling down on top of people. What did they do to deserve that?
Jesus has an answer: “Nothing. They did nothing, and they didn’t deserve that.”
The question, Why do bad things happen to good people? is one that we all ask ourselves from time to time. If God is both all-loving and all-powerful (admittedly, big ‘ifs’), how could God allow innocent children to be bombed in Mariupol? Why are families starving in Tigray, Ethiopia? What sickness could cause a shooter to target sleeping un-housed persons this week in NYC and Washington, DC?
Theologians call this the problem of ‘theodicy’, literally putting God on trial. Jesus, though, sidesteps the question. ‘Don’t go blaming people for what terrible thing happened to them,’ he seems to say, ‘what they did or didn’t do. And don’t blame God either. Think about your own life; get your own act together. Change your direction. Who do you want to be? What (and who) are you going to stand for?’
‘Besides,’ Jesus says, with this parable of the fig tree, ‘our gardener God is a God of second chances.’ And more than that, God will work with us, give us grace, supply our needs, fertilize our souls, so that the lives we lead might speak well of us.
‘May the life I lead,’ the song goes, ‘speak for me.’
See you Sunday,